GA4 vs. Universal Analytics: What Does it Mean for Dental Websites?

Alex Nuttall

 | 
September 28, 2022

Google Analytics has held the helm of web analytic tools usage since its inception back in 2005. For the most part, its success has been attributed to its user-friendly interface, its price tag (free!), and the invaluable insights it offers into user behavior and website traffic. 

Released in 2013, Universal Analytics, a major upgrade of the GA platform, swiftly took over as the standard tracking code. However, with the release of Google Analytics 4 in the fall of 2020, another change in the Google Analytics tracking code is fast taking root. With the launch of GA4, Google announced the decommissioning of Universal Analytics in July 2023.

For dental practices still using Universal Analytics for their dental websites, the time is now to learn about GA4 and begin making the switch. Failure to make the transition in time could jeopardize the growth of your dental website and the way you’re able to interact with patients.

This article will take an in-depth look into the fundamental differences between GA4 and UA and what the upgrade means for dentists nationwide.

What's Google Doing?

The most recent update to the Google Analytics platform is GA4, which is now officially Google's recommended Google Analytics version. When it was first added in beta, GA4 was branded App+Web Property, since it has the ability to track both app and web visits in one Google Analytics property. Compared to its predecessors, which provided differing platform visits in separate GA properties, GA4 is a worthwhile update.

While GA4 is set to replace Universal Analytics in July 2023, your UA patient data will still be available, but not updated. According to Google Analytics timeline, new data on page views, events, and other hits on standard UA properties will not be received or processed as of July 1, 2023. Analytics 360 users will have an extra three months to migrate into GA4.

GA4 will eventually be the only option for the collection and analysis of data in Google Analytics, and it is wise to make the switch well before the dates mentioned above. GA4 is set to synchronize with other Google products on a new data model in ways UA could not achieve, and any dental practice manager or owner that is adjusted to the new platform early on will have an upper hand. 

Differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics

It’s critical for dental professionals to understand their website traffic and how potential patients are interacting with their websites' features.

The most effective analytics tool will guide you in optimizing your Call To Action (CTA), messaging, and website design to turn potential patients into patients. 

While it’s built on the same foundation, GA4 is a complete rewrite of its predecessors and is already changing digital marketing trends. Here are some of the key differences between GA4 and Universal Analytics.

Data Model

GA4 uses an event-based data model, while UA is session based. With Universal Analytics, you track everything in sessions. Sessions are periods of time when patients interact with your website. 

With an event-based data model, GA4 can help you track events such as page views, form submissions, button clicks, etc., giving you more flexibility and control over your data. 

Data Limits

It’s critical for dental professionals to have sufficient room to receive and analyze their patient data. Though Universal Analytics is available for free, it imposes strict data limits. The standard UA properties do have limits, albeit high ones. These data limits may present challenges for high-traffic, regional websites.

On the other hand, GA4 currently offers unlimited data for its users. While this could be subject to change, GA4 allows you to collect and analyze as much data as you can. 

User-Friendliness

As a dental practice manager or owner, we do not expect you to be an Analytics guru. Unfortunately, the current UA interface can be hard to fully comprehend, particularly for new GA users. Practice managers will be pleased to hear that GA4 is expected to be more user-friendly than Universal Analytics, whose interface can be a bit overwhelming. 

Taking a more simplified approach, GA4 organizes all elements into logical sections, which makes it much easier for any user to locate their patients' data and the analytic tools they need. The developers also implemented a neat and visually-appealing interface, making actions more enjoyable across the platform. 

To top it all off, GA4 allows you to customize your interface to organize all your essentials in a more efficient and appealing fashion.  

Report Customization

One of the most powerful attributes of Google Analytics since its initial release is customization. When tracking potential patients, it’s essential to be able to simplify or detail reports to easily identify optimization opportunities. 

There are some customization capabilities available in Universal Analytics, but they are often insufficient. Actions such as the exportation of data into Data Studio or Excel and creating customized reports often necessitate finding workarounds, which are often too much work for dental practice managers. 

Comparatively, you can easily customize your dashboard and create custom reports to depict the specific data you want to present with GA4. The upgrade also features a built-in report editor for further report customization. Moreover, it offers you the capability to export your data to Big Query.

What Does the Upgrade Mean for My Practice?

Making the move to Google Analytics 4 allows you to continue building on the patient data after Universal Analytics stops receiving and processing new hits. Moreover, you will have access to a range of new features mentioned above to help you improve your marketing insights. 

You will also have the opportunity to reexamine your business's customer journey by focusing on events rather than sessions.

What if I Don't Prepare?

Your Universal Analytics platform will stop receiving and processing new hits on July 1, 2023 (or October 1, 2023, for 360 Universal Analytics users). You will only be able to access historical data from your Universal Analytics for six months. It is essential you make the switch now and give your dental practice time to adjust to the new features and interface on the new GA4. 

Make The Switch Easier

There's plenty to love about the GA4 platform, and we can only wait to see the new features that roll out after its initial release. While it takes a bit of time to learn the ropes on the new platform, it is worth the effort. 

For overworked dentists looking to improve their practice, Great Dental Websites is here to help by providing marketing expertise and insights into using the GA4 platform to grow your business. We can help you streamline business management and allow you to focus on providing good care to your patients. 

Ready to make the switch as easy as possible? Contact us today and make the first move towards spurring your practice growth.

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